Mark 8 2016 Style

In the mid-1970’s there were several U.S.-based hobby electronics magazines, including Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics. Most people know that in 1975, Popular Electronics ran articles about the Altair 8800 and launched the personal computer industry. But they weren’t the first. That honor goes to Radio Electronics, that ran articles about the Mark 8 — based on the Intel 8008 — in 1974. There are a few reasons, the Altair did better in the marketplace. The Mark 8 wasn’t actually a kit. You could buy the PC boards, but you had to get the rest of the parts yourself. You also had to buy the plans. There wasn’t enough information in the articles to duplicate the build and — according to people who tried, maybe not enough information even in the plans.

[Henk Verbeek] wanted his own Mark 8 so he set about building one. Of course, coming up with an 8008 and some of the other chips these days is quite a challenge (and not cheap). He developed his own PCBs (and has some extra if anyone is looking to duplicate his accomplishment). There’s also a video, you can watch below.

If you are interested in the history of the Mark 8, there are a few sites around that remember. Because of the challenge of sourcing the parts and completing the project, there were probably only a handful of these completed, despite about 7,500 sets of plans and 400 sets of PC boards sold. There was a similar kit from Scelbi that predated the Mark 8, but they only sold about 200 of them.

If you are interested in this era of microprocessor design, be sure you didn’t miss this post. If you do source an 8008 and you lose interest in the Mark 8, you can always build the obligatory clock.

[wpvideo mRpHyr8l]

30 thoughts on “Mark 8 2016 Style

  1. I thought an article on the Mark-8 might have a mention of Jonathon Titus (who created the Mark-8). He was a stalworth of Electronic Design News (EDN) also. Nice to see some interest in the retro stuff here..

  2. In my pert of the planet we had this –
    The “Dream 6800” was a popular build-it-yourself computer which I designed in 1978. The project was published in Electronics Australia magazine in 1979. The Dream was a ridiculously simple hobby computer with 2K bytes of memory that played game programs on a TV. The 1KB ROM (1024 bytes!) contained a simple interpretive programming language known as “CHIP-8”, devised by Joe Weisbecker of RCA Labs. I developed a CHIP-8 interpreter to run on the Motorola 6800 processor. CHIP-8 originally ran on the RCA_COSMAC VIP board. It was amazing to see what could be done with the available memory and a “chunky graphics” display of just 64 x 32 pixels — for example, “Dream Invaders”, a crude version of Space Invaders, as adrenalin-pumping as the real thing. User groups proliferated.

    1. I should point out that my original post is a copy and paste and the “I” doesn’t refer to me.

      None the less it’s an interesting retro-computer. It’s got me thinking of using a modern AVR with a software 6800 emulator and a LED array for the pixels. Then again 32 serial addressable 8×8 LED arrays may be more cost when an AVR should easily spit out monochrome video.

    1. At a computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated: “If GM had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”

      In response to Bill’s comments, General Motors issued a press release (by Mr. Welch himself) stating:

      If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

      1. For no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day.

      2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.

      3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuver such as a left-turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, and you would have to reinstall the engine.

      4. When your car died on the freeway for no reason, you would just accept this, restart and drive on.

      5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought ‘Car95’ or ‘CarNT’, and then added more seats.

      6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads.

      7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single ‘general car default’ warning light.

      8. New seats would force every-one to have the same size butt.

      9. The airbag would say ‘Are you sure?’ before going off.

      10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna.

      11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of road maps from Rand-McNally (a subsidiary of GM), even though they neither need them nor want them. Trying to delete this option would immediately cause the car’s performance to diminish by 50 per cent or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.

      12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

      13. You would press the ‘start’ button to shut off the engine.

      1. “7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single ‘general car default’ warning light.”
        depending on the car, this has come to pass.

        “10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna.”
        as someone who works on key fobs for GM… this is essentially true.

        “12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.”
        *cough* Chrysler shifter *cough*

        “13. You would press the ‘start’ button to shut off the engine.”
        this one is incontrovertibly true right now.


      1. Cotton picking was regarded as the lowest form of manual labor, implying maybe that you were too oafish and clumsy to get a “real” job, so cottonpicking hands, would imply clumsy manual laborer hands.

  4. Yep. The Mark-8 article was the beginning for most, and very intriguing and mysterious, this programing concept.

    An earlier and absolutely crucial development was Don Lancaster’s publishing of his TV Typwriter in the Sept. 1973 issue of Radio-Electronics.

    1. Correct, Don Lancaster deserves a lot of credit for the TV Typewriter. I used one to demo the Mark-8 to Larry Steckler, editor of Radio-Electronics magazine in late ’73 or early ’74. My brother Chris and I created a simple monitor that displayed memory contents on a TV via the TV Typewriter. A keyboard provided the input for address and data info. Lancaster’s many projects in Popular Electronics first got me interested in using DTL and TTL chips. His TTL Cookbook was a classic. –Jon

      1. Nice to see you here Jon. I learned a lot from you, Don, and the rest. That was the kind of thing that inspired me to write for Dr. Dobb’s, N&V, and the few dozen other magazines I’ve popped up in over the years. Now here we all are on the Internet.

        1. I don’t recall the book. I assume you could convert the binary values to hex or octal and then use a disassembler for the given processor, but most disassemblers I’ve seen give mixed results. That was a long time ago.

          1. This was a paper version where you are the disassembler. It had charts and tables for anotating code and arrangements for tracking subroutines and showing embedded text, etc. He had an algorith the use worked through get an decode everything. This might have been part of the two part Machine Language Cookbook. I’m sure I have whatever it was. He and his wife used to stay with me, or park the RV, for each West Coast Computer Faire until they quit asking him to speak and included a free table. You can imagine how doing to for free would go against his survival instincts. He left me a stack of signed books each time for a few years, and there is at least one of each around here somewhere.

            I have never made it for a Tinaja Quest

  5. The origin of the Intel 8008 was the first PC, the Datapoint 2200 V1. The 2200 was developed and mass produced by Computer Terminal Corporation in San Antonio, Texas. To read more about it and the company, check “Datapoint”, Datapoint 2200″ and “Intel 8008”. There is also book that details the collaboration with Intel. In Amazon: ‘Datapoint: The Lost Story of the Texans Who Invented the Personal Computer Revolution’. Don’t get me wrong, the Mark-8 was a fine machine!

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